Friday, May 31, 2013

Don't Ignore Those Warning Signs

This is my first entry to Indiblogger's "The Moral Of The Story Is...." contest in association with Colgate. Check out My Healthy Speak Blog.

It was past midnight. All the everyday noises of domesticity had died down some time back. First the pressure cooker whistles that announced that supper was ready had fallen silent, then the clanging of pots and pans as housewives washed up the dirty vessels of the night had quietened, the soap opera on the neighbours’ TV had finally shut up; then the voices of men, women and children discussing the mundane details of their day had ceased as people gradually surrendered themselves to the night. I could hear a street dog howling in the distance and the lone tak, tak of the night watchman’s stick as he went on his rounds, as the 10 year old me sat chewing on her pencil – like I had been doing for the past hour.

“If Mala had 25 apples and Raghu gave her 10 more….” The words were starting to swim before my eyes. Arrghh! Why did maths have to so difficult!? Tomorrow was my maths exam and I had hardly finished studying half the syllabus. I still had to work my way through algebra and geometry and graphs and what not! My dad was looking at me, waiting for me to figure out the solution, but after a 10 hour work day, I could tell that his patience was wearing thin.

I was not a bad student but this was a common scenario at home before each of my maths exams. First, my mom would try to teach me. After I had used up all the reserves of her strength, my brother would chip in. After I had irritated him too, my dad would try his best. And after a sleepless night, I would walk into the exam hall dreading every minute of it. Once I had finished the exam I would feel elated – Done. No more maths till school reopens. Yay! And then of course, when the results are announced I would wait with my heart in my throat and eye the top scorers with envy.

My best friend Aruna, who was also my neighbour, was a maths wizard. Maths exams were a piece of cake for her. While I would be breaking my head, she would have finished prepping and would be happily lounging around in front of the idiot box – and the next day she would be all bright eyed and bushy tailed, while I looked like something the cat dragged in.

Maths was the only subject which I tried so hard – and yet didn’t do too well. The funny part is my dad, my mom AND my bro are bankers! But no matter how much hard work I put in I could never get my head around maths.

My feelings were exactly the opposite for my English exams. I always looked forward to getting my hands on my English books during my vacations and I would read all the books before school started. I waited eagerly for the English period and was thrilled when the exams came around. I loved writing long essays and was ecstatic when my papers came in with “Very Good!” or ”Great Job!” scrawled on it with red ink. When my English teacher praised me in front of the entire class, I had a wide grin plastered on my face the whole day.

I guess those were the earliest warning signs; but as it so often happens in life, I failed to notice them.

Warning bells are ringing!

Eventually it was time for me to choose my stream of study in the 11th standard. Well, what was there to think about? Everyone knew that the Maths & Science group was the best. There was huge competition for it and Engineers and Doctors obviously had the brightest future. Did I pause to think if this is what I was interested in? Yes I did. And a little warning bell went off in a corner of my mind – Are you sure? It asked. But I pushed it out. Afterall, if all the bright minds were taking up maths and science then it must be the right thing to do, no?

And so life went by. Only, it got much worse. I could hardly pay any attention in class. Maths and Physics and Chemistry did not excite me – they simply bored me out of my mind. I found myself day dreaming with the page of formulas staring at me. I went for tuitions and my mind wandered away. Science group students face so much pressure that the weekly Sports period and - horror of horrors!- English period was almost always taken over by either the Maths or Science teachers. But I had to get high marks. My friends were all doing well and my brother too. They were constant comparisons and statements like “Look at him! Why can’t you study like him?” So I tried, somewhat half-heartedly.

But here and there were a few rays of sunshine. My poems got published frequently in our school’s magazine. Every time it happened, I pinched myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.

Anyway, even if you aren’t Sir C.V Raman, hard work pays off to an extent and I managed to get a decent score in my exams. I appeared for various professional courses entrance exams too – but all with a niggling thought in my mind. Do I really want to become an engineer or a doctor? Is that what I really want to do? What about everything that you hear about following your heart? What about chasing your dreams?

BA English Literature beckoned me. I secured admission in a leading Arts college. I was among the top performers in the class and a bunch of us were chosen to attend a specialized course in English. I was thrilled. When many of the other girls bunked classes and sat around the cafeteria chit-chatting I was happy to be in class – listening to my lecturers talk about the classics. I savoured every moment of it.

But nobody could understand it. This is India. When thousands of people are vying for an Engineering seat why would anyone throw it away for an English Lit one? Whoever heard of such nonsense? Only dumb people who couldn’t get admission into any other branch took up Literature. It was an absolute waste of time. It won’t take you anywhere in life.

Or so my critics said. My instincts warned me “No, they are wrong! Stick to your decision!” But I ignored it – yet again – and spent four mind-numbing years, earning my degree in B.Tech IT. The first year I was also elected as the English Representative of my class but I was so relieved when the last day of college rolled by.

No more Java, no more C++, no more Data Structures & Algorithms, no more Digital System Design, no more Digital Signal Processing, no more maths, no more numbers, no more calculations…. But wait! I had a job in an IT company. Great! Air-conditioned offices, a big fat pay cheque at the end of the month, overseas travel and the pride that comes with introducing myself as a “software engineer.”

But you know that inner voice that sometimes just refuses to leave you alone no matter how much you threaten to punch it? Well that voice kept popping up now and again – warning me. “This is not what you are meant to be doing,” it kept insisting as I tried to design a flowchart. “What are you doing here? Why are you still here?”, it kept questioning as I took the late night cab home. “Why are you chasing a mirage when your destiny lies somewhere else?” it repeated when I was stifling a yawn sitting in a client meeting.

And just as that tiny little cavity which you neglected to get filled gets bigger and bigger until the entire tooth is eroded forcing you to fix that long pending appointment with the dentist, one day the voice grew too loud to ignore. I resigned.

The moral of the story is...

Have you ever had a bad tooth that was troubling you for a long time? And finally when the dentist fixes it, you tentatively test it out. You run your tongue over it gingerly and take a careful bite. Voila! No pain! Everything is perfect! A wave of relief washes over you. You sit back and enjoy the ice cream.

So, what is the moral of this looonnggg story? If you know what you want in life and if you know that you can be good at it - then don't ignore those warning signs. Believe in yourself and go for it. I traded in my settlement money and did a Journalism course. Today I work with a women’s magazine and I love it! I might not make as much money as in my previous job but this work motivates me and gives me complete job satisfaction. And it urges me to dream new dreams – maybe write a blog post and enter a contest like this one… maybe write a book, someday? Who knows, if only I had not ignored my warning signs maybe I would have written one already!


  1. Empathize with every line Anne! Well written. I'm proud of you for following your heart :)

  2. Thanks Neeru :-)
    This is the first time I am entering a blog contest - let's see how it works out! Fingers crossed!

  3. Wow!! That was a great thing to read and did not expect such a moral story on a blogging contest. I am quite impressed and hope the judges will be too....

    1. Thank you so much Farida! Lovely to see your positive comment - you've made my day :-)


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